Someone just wrote to ask me what to do when the writing is not going well. Fortunately, Diana Peterfreund has just written on this because I have no useful answer.
I suspect my own struggles with sentences that crumble as I type, with plot and character and meaning twisting out of my control, are at least partly because I’m very early on in my career. Old timers are much smarter about this stuff. Fer instance, my parents heard Thomas Kenneally interviewed the other day and he said that the writing got easier as he got older. After having written for more than forty years and having produced a bazillion gazillion novels (or, you know, thirty odd) he knows his own process and what to expect.
Not really. I’ve only written six novels and the writing of each one was different. I’ve been a freelancer writer for four years. I still have no idea how long it takes me to write a book. I can tell you how long the last one took, but not how long the next one will.
When you’re starting out you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you’re capable of. When the crappy writing days hit you—it’s a shock and you don’t know how to handle them.
Even super disciplined writers, like my old man, have days of words dissolving into puddles of putrescence, when they can’t focuss, and can barely squeeze out five words let alone a thousand.
What he does is keep writing. That’s where the discipline comes in. The act of getting yourself into the chair and typing—even if the words you’re producing make William McGonagall look like a genius—can be enough to get you past the crap and into the good.
Sometimes people just need a break.
And only the writer can figure out which it is.
Personally, I’m pretty much always convinced that I need a break. Preferably in a place where there’s plentiful cricket coverage (alas, poor England), the food is fabulous, and the wine even better.
Sadly, my deadlines say otherwise . . .